Read Habibi by Naomi Shibab Nye.
Nye, Naomi Shihab. 1997. Habibi. New York, NY: Simon Pulse. ISBN: 0-689-82523-4.
Few books have broached the subject of how someone feels who immigrates from America to a foreign country. In Habibi (Darling), we are taken through this experience with a family unit. Liyana, the main character and daughter in the family, finds herself faced with having to learn another language, making new friends, exploring a new country and experiencing a new culture. I was amazed in another major difference in this book in that most books have everyone returning to America for the happy ending. In this book both Liyana and her brother adjust to their new situation and they are happy in their new country. We are left with the impression that they will probably live the rest of their lives in Palestine. We are also faced with the political tension of the times which will become a record of life at this particular time. The accuracy of the time and the depiction of the political strife between Palestinians and Jews will certainly make this a qualified historical novel. The culture is written with great accuracy and insight throughout the book i.e. the importance of the extended family, the restrictions placed on the women of this culture, even the basis of superstition and religion reflect the time and atmosphere. This book uniquely combines family, culture, teens, language and religious barriers and romance along with the political strife of the area. This read was enlightening and extremely well-done. The dress and attitude of the time were accurately reflected throughout the text.
Read one children's or YA book of your choice which embodies a feminist perspective.
Whelan, Gloria. 2000. Homeless bird. New York, NY: HarperCollins Children's Books. ISBN: 0-06-028452-8.
This book is from the perspective of Koly who lives in India. During the story Koly is married by arrangement to Hari, a sick young man. Hari dies from pneumonia even after being taken to Maa Ganges, a river known for healing many people. Following Hari's death, Koly continues to live with his family and serve them by cleaning, chores etc. The daughter is married and her father-in-law dies. This leaves Koly alone with Sass, her mother-in-law. Sass makes arrangements to go and live with her son and uses the last of her possessions and Koly's to finance her journey. She tricks Koly in Vrindavan by abandoning her there. The remainder of the story is about Koly finding a place to live, making friends, finding work and falling in love. The book itself provides a lot of background into the culture of the time from arranged marriages to attitudes toward widows. This culture depicts the son syndrome, as I call it, where the son is the important member of the family and the daughter is used for what status her marriage can buy for the family. Throughout the book phrases and words are taught which are also presented in a glossary at the back for easy reference. While Koly was extremely intelligent, learning to read and write, she also had artistic skill with her embroidery. Surely if Sass had been aware of this skill, she would have used Koly in this area as well. This also shows how cruel women can be to other women. Koly was represented as the ideal daughter-in-law in that she lived to serve her new family. The family unit is different in that if widowed, the daughter cannot go back to her own family as it would bring shame. All widows are also to wear their widow's sari for their remaining years which reminds me of the Star of David which in both cases resulted in easy identification for persecution. While I was caught up in the book and the authenticity of the garb and culture, I was also disturbed by such archaic culture rules. I was unaware of many of the cultural aspects in India and hope that things have gotten more modern there, especially for the women. The problem is that so much of the culture is tied in with the religion. I would have to study Hindu to see how much is an accurate crossover and how much is the country's culture.
Read one children's or YA book of your choice which focuses on Gay/Lesbian characters or issues.
Willhoite, Michael. 1990. Daddy's roommate. Boston, MA: Alyson Wonderland. ISBN: 1-55583-118-4.
This picture book addresses the gay lifestyle by introducing it in a wholesome way to young children. The book explains the family dynamics as well as it describes some of the activities his father and Frank do together and with the main character. The illustrations are in cartoon format and are well placed in the book. It is written so it can be used for read aloud as well as individual reading. While the issue is tough, it has been handled with care and good taste. It also mentions divorce without belaboring how that came about. The mother is also supportive of the relationship but her motives are not brought out or delved in to for the reader. I found the dealing of the issue to be refreshingly simple without going in to stereotypical roles. The accuracy is there as far as the book goes. While I have a tendency to feel the book is too simplistic, the age of the reader that the book is geared for makes this aptly suited.
Read one children's or YA book of your choice which focuses on a character or characters with disabilities.
Powers, Mary Ellen. 1986. Our teacher's in a wheelchair. Niles, IL: Albert Whitman & Company. ISBN: 0-8075-6240-8.
This non-fiction book explores the life and abilities of Brian Hanson who was injured in a game of La Crosse. The injury left Brian partially paralyzed and using a wheelchair. Brian is a nursery school teacher and very active with his students. The photos add to the accuracy of the book with live photographs of Brian and his daily life. As well as describing the time of the injury, the book leads the reader through the things he had to learn to get around and some of the obstacles that he runs into in his daily life. The reader also joins Brian in the nursery school as he works and plays with the children. Sometimes the children help Brian, for instance, going across grass or gravel. This book would help students understand not only how full a person's life can be even if he/she is restricted to a wheelchair, but also bring them to an awareness level of some of the obstacles. This could easily lead students to a new level of social awareness for those who are physically handicapped. The accuracy throughout the text and the illustrative photos is maintained at all times.